When people hear the word “humidity,” many associate it with the hot, sticky feeling of summer. However, humidity is a topic that matters for homeowners throughout the year.
Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air at any given time, and this amount fluctuates according to outdoor temperature. High humidity correlates with hot weather because warm air can hold more moisture than cold air, which is why winter in the upper Midwest typically feels so dry.
Relative humidity (RH) is the percentage of water vapor in the air before it turns to liquid, or 100% RH. In general, a relative humidity level between 30-50 percent is best for indoors. Keep reading to learn why balanced moisture levels are important for your home and your health.
Effects of Too Much Humidity
Discomfort, musty smells, and loss of sleep are some of many issues people face when humidity is high in their homes, or over 60 percent RH. Excess moisture in the air causes condensation on your windows (especially in the winter) and potentially hazardous wet spots on your floors, walls, and ceiling. More importantly, it creates a breeding ground for mold and mildew, which can wreak havoc on your indoor air quality and ultimately your health.
In the summer, air conditioners automatically work to remove excess humidity from your indoor air as part of the “conditioning” process. If your home still feels sticky even when your air conditioner is running, contact a certified heating and cooling technician to calibrate your cooling equipment and verify that your home has enough ductwork to adequately circulate the air.
Excess humidity can also be an issue during the winter, especially in homes built in the 1990s or later. Modern homes are constructed to be efficient, but sometimes they can’t “breathe” because they are so airtight – especially when doors and windows remain closed for long periods of time. Air exchangers are a good solution for this issue because they facilitate better air flow in your home.
Other products that can help with high humidity are dehumidifiers and air purifiers. As the name suggests, dehumidifiers work to consistently remove excess moisture throughout your home, especially in your bathroom where moisture is most present. Meanwhile, air purifiers help prevent respiratory problems and allergic reactions by removing airborne mold, mildew, and other biological pathogens that grow in high humidity.
Effects of Too Little Humidity
When temperatures drop in the winter, so does moisture in the air. Too little humidity – or RH levels below 30 percent – leads to dry skin and less mucus in your eyes, nose, and throat, which increases your risk of getting sick. Low humidity can also warp your furniture, crack the paint on your walls, and cause static electricity that could damage your electronics.
While dehumidifiers remove excess moisture from the air, humidifiers are a welcome solution when the air feels dry, because they introduce water vapor back into the air.
Humidity That’s “Just Right”
In addition to using products that control humidity, another key factor for achieving balanced moisture in your home is a well-maintained heating and cooling system. Scheduling routine maintenance with a certified technician will ensure your system is effectively introducing or removing the right amount of moisture to keep your family comfortable throughout the year.